Interview: Ozzy Osbourne


It's been a long break since the recording of OZZY OSBOURNE's last studio opus 1988's No Rest For The Wicked and the subsequent tour that followed. Whatever domestic problems that may have ensued afterwards, this album and tour did sort of lay the foundations for his latest (and apparently final!) album No More Tears since it featured the talents of new OZZY axe-man Zakk Wylde, a guitarist very much reminiscent of the late great Randy Rhodes, not so much in terms of his playing but in terms of his attitude.

Trekking out on the tube to the suburban climbs of W9, I'm a little apprehensive at the thought of interviewing Ozzy Osbourne for the first time, having been a fan of "Mr O" ever since he emerged with a legendary Brummie band back in the late 60s early 70s by the name of BLACK SABBATH. However, on meeting up with him at Sharon Osbourne's West London office I find him relaxed and very talkative.

The new album, to my ears, is arguably his best effort since 81's Diary of a Madman. Ozzy elaborates:

"What happened with the first two albums I did was that I had just left Sabbath and there was just no time schedule; we virtually recorded Blizzard and Diary simultaneously. Then when it all took off we started touring heavily so the time we had to rest, write, and record became a lot tighter. I mean, you come off a fucking 18 month tour and all you want to do is sit in a pub and get pissed for a fucking month.

"Because of the rush of putting product out and the heavy touring schedule the albums were suffering. For instance, I can't stand The Ultimate Sin, I just don't like that album, although it is my biggest selling album to date.

"So I didn't wanna do another fucking album under pressure, put it out, and think, 'it's just another OZZY album', y'know, with me standing there with a fucking dragon behind me. I wanted to get away from the fucking fangs, the blood, and the fucking vampires; I wanted to do an album with a different look cover-wise; I wanted to do an album that I really wanted to do, not what I think the kids out there wanted to hear. So with No More Tears it just sort of happened on its own, y'know. We just casually made an album. It cost me an awful lot of fucking money though." 

But I think it shows in the quality stakes.

"It's like someone said to me 'fucking hell, METALLICA spent 8 months in the studio getting a drum sound, they used 97 mics on their drums etc.' But they got a number 1 album in America, a number 1 album in fucking Germany, a number 1 album in Australia, so it was worth it you know."

People know that when an Ozzy album comes out that they're always gonna get good value for their money.

"I saw it all the way through. I flew to New York to the cutting plant and I sat in the room while the guy fucking cut the album, you know."

But what did you really want to achieve with this album?

"I wanted to do an Ozzy album, I'm not all about fucking devil worshipping, you know. That's why I insisted on a totally different album sleeve. No doubt the record company would have me sitting there with fucking fangs and a fucking glint in my eye. The cover to the new album I think is beautiful."

The title no more tears does lend itself towards a more auto-biographical sense of reasoning. It's more like the real John Osbourne coming out of his shell, less OZZY, more yourself. 

"It turned out as if it was planned that way, but it wasn't, I swear. It's like a very personal album for me, there's a lot of real stuff in there. The song 'The Road To Nowhere' touches a part of me that is really honest, y'know." 

How well did it all come together once you got into the studio? 

"It was a total band collaboration, Randy Castillo and Zakk put an awful lot of work into it, as well as myself. I love it now in the studio with some of these machines you can fuck around with. On this album there's lots of, like, effects and things. I love panning on records, y'know. It's like the ice-cream on the cake." 

What about your sense of wit?
"On every OZZY album there's a laugh, there's one laugh on every OZZY album and that's something that nobody knows. For instance, there's a lyric on I don't wanna change the world - 'tell me I'm a sinner, I've got news for you, I spoke to God this morning and he don't like you.' I like that attitude of fuck you, it's only fun anyway!"

You've always had a great sense of humour, though.

"Yes, but I'm the worst to be around with when I'm making an album. I turn into this fucking obsessive bastard. I play it all day, everyday, I live with it night and day, I fucking work out to it, I fucking walk around the streets with it. It's a wonder I haven't sent my fucking wife to a fucking lunatic asylum, coz I drive her crazy."

Since this is billed as your last album and world tour do you think, outside being OZZY, there are any things you would like to get involved with on a different level?

"I'm still gonna make records. I'd like to form a band and work with other musicians, whatever takes my fancy. Maybe later on I'd bring OZZY back off the shelf again to do an OZZY album. Kind of similar to what DAVID BOWIE has done with TIN MACHINE. Being 'the OZZY OSBOURNE band', I'm tired of because I always get the blame. If the bass player writes me a song and I sing it, he doesn't get the fucking slagging, I get the slagging! I'm fed up of being a fucking target y'know."
So, you'd like to work more in the context of a musical unit rather than have all the focus yourself?
"This album was a kind of experiment with that kind of thing in mind, and it worked out really well. If this is a huge success then I'll perhaps do another OZZY album, but if it's not a huge success then it's over! One thing I learned by taking my time with this album was that it was easier on me y'know." 

How do you think the Rock world would cope without OZZY though?
"It seems to have coped the last couple of years without me. I'm not gonna disappear; If I'm not visually performing on stage, I'll still be making records. I'll always make records. My body tells me that I've got to slow down, y'know. I don't wanna kill myself because of Rock N' Roll." 

What many of your critics, in America, especially, fail to realise is that you're a father with your own responsibilities.
"I mean America and England are so far apart. It's a huge country with a lot of people all mingled into each other. There's so many different beliefs, religions, organisations etc. There's hundreds of fucking different things, clubs and outfits and fuck knows what. But I love it there, I really do." 

What about touring plans then?
"I'm starting the tour in Japan and then I'm going to Australia for the first time in twenty years, then I'm gonna go to South America. I'm just gonna plod along, y'know. I'm just gonna carry on and take it easy. I'm gonna try and see some of these places too. In America itself, I'm amazed that somebody hasn't taken a fucking pot-shot at me since I don't have any bodyguards."
It must get to a point where everything must turn into a bit of a blur after a while, when you're on the road for so long.
"That's exactly what it becomes, but it's what I do, you know, it's my job. I've been in hard training for this fucking tour. I get up every morning and work out. You've got to be fit, you know. It's like if a soccer player sits in on his arse and the season starts and he hasn't done any training he's going to be fucked. I was 13 stone, and now I'm 11 stone. I fucking hate having to exercise, but after I've done it, I always feel great, you know. It's better than smoking any joint!"

Are you going to carry on with this rigorous exercise programme while you're on tour?

"Yeah, I did it on the last tour. I have to be active, you know."

Does it help you deal with life's pressures then?

"The pressure is always there, you know. That's one thing I try and avoid thinking about. I'd just fuck up! One thing I'm trying to work on is the thing of living in the now, because if one part of my mind starts fucking moaning, I'm dead, y'know."

But you've got to take some things seriously.

"I take life very slowly these days. My wife whizzes around like a fucking maniac, she's always on to me. All I want to do is sit in the fucking house, I don't wanna go out. The only reason I used to go out before was to get pissed! I don't want to go to the theatre, I'm not particularly bothered about going to the movies. I fucking hate coming into London to go anywhere! Very occasionally you'll see me at some fucking convention or at a gig or something, but I hate ligging, I have never been one to lig at gigs."

Do you keep up in any way with what's going on around you on a musical level?

"I haven't seen any bands for fucking yonks. I don't know what's in the charts. I don't know what's going on. I just do my own thing. I mean Sharon buys the fucking papers, she watches MTV, she has to listen to Radio One. But that's her job and I have to accept it."

So what are the main pitfalls of being married to your manager?

"One of the main pitfalls of being married to your manager is that you live with the industry. I mean the fucking phones never stop ringing. My phone bill comes on a fucking satin cushion, y'know. I've got a massive fucking house in Buckinghamshire, and in every single room, bar, the toilet, there's a phone, it's like being inside a fucking space invaders machine. In my next life I'm gonna come back as a telephone and I fucking hate them!

"When I first got successful on my own and the car phones came out I thought, [goes into pseudo-American voice] 'that's the bizzo, the Rock N'Roll Star with the phone'. Believe me, it's the worst fucking thing ever invented. Now you can't escape them. Now in America you can carry them around on you, y'know, there like the size of a fucking packet of cigarettes. In America they're now banning them in restaurants, they're banning them in lots of public places because people are getting pissed off! They go out for a meal, and the guy behind them is talking about fucking stocks and shares, while the guy on the other table has got his wife out on their fucking anniversary date or whatsoever.

"I love it when there's a holiday in America. They have holidays every fucking weekend, y'know, the phone stops at night so you can go and lie down and you can watch your TV and your videos without the fucking thing ringing. On a normal day the phone starts in the house about 8.30 in the morning and it doesn't stop until 1 or 2 in the morning."

Getting back to more musical tones, though, there's a retrospective type video in the can isn't there?

"Yes, I've got a video coming out called 'Don't Blame Me' which features footage from like old SABBATH as well as my solo career. I mean, there's stuff on there that I've never fucking seen! They interview all different kinds of people about me, good and bad. It's not the usual [goes into pseudo American voice again] 'I'm a Rock star,' and all this shit, there's some really interesting stuff on it. It's the real thing, it's not fake."

What do you think about the whole MTV scene as regards Rock?

"I think MTV has fucked Rock N'Roll up entirely. If you're the MTV flavour of the month, it's great, if you ain't you're fucked."

There's less left to the imagination these days.
"Yeah, but if you want to sell records you've got to lick their arses, y'know. It can mean the difference between selling 2 million albums in America and 8 million, and the financial difference, as far as the record company is concerned, is major."

Finally, what's the best thing about being OZZY?

"To be able to give my kids the best education that money can buy and to have the freedom to do what I want to do, when I want to do it. When I say freedom, it's very demanding and very hard work. People tend to think that to be a Rock N' Roll Star Performer or whatever is an easy life, it's fucking hard work y'know. It beats a 9 to 5, I'd sooner be doing this than a 9 to 5. It's something that you love. The bottom line is I like doing what I do, I don't do it with any resentment, the reward is in the goal 'OZZY you've got another platinum disc' and I go 'Fuckin hell, I'm 42 and I've still got it' y'know.

"I never look at any of it, like, scientifically. I came from a lower class family, I didn't have a aery great education. I'm a bit of a dimbo when it comes to writing fucking letters, contracts etc., but I just know when something feels good to me. If it doesn't feel good to me then I don't like it. It's as simple as that!"

So, in conclusion, what would you say is your biggest challenge at this moment in time?

"A fucking hit record."

Mark Crampton
Riff Raff
November 1991

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